HC Deb 13 July 1842 vol 65 cc84-6
Viscount Palmerston

wished to put a question to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home Department. When the Mines and Collieries Bill was in an early stage before that House, the right hon. Baronet stated, that that bill had not only his own entire approbation, with one reservation, but that it had the warm and cordial support of the Government. Now, he perceived that, in another place, a noble Lord, a distinguished Member of the Government, last night stated, in reference to that measure, that Government meant to remain quite passive in its progress, leav- ing individual Members of the Government to take what part they thought fit— the noble Lord himself making it tolerably manifest that he himself intended to give the measure anything but warm and cordial support. He wished to know how this apparent discrepancy was to be reconciled; whether the right hon. Baronet in that House was to be taken as the real expositor of the intentions of Government in this respect, or the noble Lord in the other House.

Sir J. Graham

said, that the noble Lord had not given him the slightest intimation of his intention to put such a question to him, and therefore he did not know upon what foundation the statement rested, unless it was on the reports of what had occurred in another place. Not having had an opportunity of referring to his noble Friend, he could only speak of the declaration which he himself had made. The declaration he made was this—that to the principle of the bill introduced by his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) he cordially assented. He assented to it not merely in his individual capacity, but as one of the Members of a united Government. He, however, reserved to himself, and his Colleagues, the right of considering the details of the measure, and amongst those details, he, at the time, particularly specified the prohibition of the employment of children under thirteen years of age, and expressed a doubt whether that was a judicious regulation. During the progress of the bill, his noble Friend departed from his original intention upon that point, and the bill now permitted the employment of children of thirteen years of age, but upon condition that they should be employed only on alternate days, and for a period not exceeding twelve hours each day. For himself, he did not object to the limitation, but if his opinion were to be asked upon the subject, he would suggest what he considered an improvement. It appeared to him, that the employment of children even on alternate days for so long a period as twelve hours would be prejudicial to their health and well-being, and he thought it would be better to allow them to be employed for five days in the week, and for a period of not more than eight or nine hours. If a proposition of that nature had been submitted to the House, he should have thought it perfectly consistent with the pledge he had given to have supported it. If the noble Lord had given him notice of his intention to propose the question, he would have had an opportunity of communicating with his noble Colleague; as it was, he could only express his belief that his noble Friend had only reserved to himself, as he had done, the right of considering the details of the measure.